Lesotho: Manyokole Corruption Trial Postponed

Suspended Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Director General Mahlomola Manyokole's money laundering and corruption trial has been postponed to 28 June 2021 to give the DCEO time to finalise its investigations into the matter.

Adv Manyokole and his four co-accused had on Monday appeared before Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa.

Magistrate Moopisa moved the case to her chambers. The Lesotho Times later learnt from the court's information officer, Mampota Phakoe, that the matter had been deferred to 28 June 2021 pending the finalisation of the DCEO's investigations into the matter.

Adv Manyokole is charged alongside DCEO Chief Asset Recovery Litigation Officer Peter Matekane, former DCEO intern Relebohile Lesholu, Ikhetheleng Matabane and Matsobane Putsoa both of M Putsoa and Associates as well as Mr Matabane's Mokorotlo Communications.

The charges stem from the Victoria Hotel saga wherein Advocate Manyokole had instituted an investigation into the alleged money laundering and corruption by Sobita Investments' late owner, businessman Thabiso Tlelai who had leased the hotel from the government since 2002.

Last June, Adv Manyokole successfully petitioned the High Court for an order to place the hotel under curatorship.

The application was granted by Judge Makara Molefi on 15 June 2020. This after the anti-graft body argued that the late Mr Tlelai's Sobita Investments was unprocedurally awarded the lease by the then Pakalitha Mosisili government and had over the years failed to pay M60 000 monthly rentals since 2002.

Adv Manyokole subsequently said the hotel would be run by a curator- M Putsoa and Associates.

But in a subsequent turn of events last week, the DCEO charged Adv Manyokole with money laundering, corruption and abuse of office in connection with his handling of the Victor Hotel probe. He is accused, among other things, of embezzling money from Victoria Hotel to pay for expenses that had nothing to do with the curatorship.

The DCEO accuses Mr Matekane and Adv Manyokole of intentionally abusing their offices and committing the offences of fraud and corruption last June when they chose M Putsoa Associates as the Victoria Hotel curator when they were fully aware that the company had been deregistered by the LIA in 2016 and was therefore ineligible for that task.

Another corruption charge stems from Mr Matekane's alleged failure to disclose his interest when he participated in the appointment of Mr Putsoa with whom he is alleged to have business and personal relations.

The accused had further engaged in embezzlement and theft when they used M11 532, 47 from Victoria Hotel to pay for M Putsoa and Associates' membership fees to the LIA to give the curating firm a new lease of life and legitimize its appointment in retrospect.

M Putsoa and Associates had committed fraud by misrepresenting itself as a company lawfully conducting business when it had been deregistered by the LIA in 2016 on account of failing to pay its membership dues.

The DCEO accuses Messers Matabane and Putsoa of corruption and money laundering when M Putsoa and Associates appointed Mokorotlo Communications to offer services to M Putsoa and Associates for a fee of M177 770.

M Putsoa and Associates is also accused of corruption when it allegedly transferred M104 520 into Mokorotlo Communications "with the aim of concealing and disguising the illicit origin or true nature of that property, thus violating the section 28 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act 1999".

The charge sheet states that further amounts of M20 000; M53 250; M41 000 and M30 000 were transferred from M Putsoa and Associates to Mokorotlo Communications while another M28 500 was deposited into the personal account of Mr Lesholu between June 2020 and January 2021, "thus committing a money laundering offence".

The charge sheet does not specify the specific services that Mokorotlo purportedly rendered. It implies no services were in fact rendered and the payments were a hoax to conceal the theft of Victoria Hotel funds.

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